Here’s What Happens When You Stop Washing Your Hair, According to a Trichologist and a Stylist

Listen, at this point in the quarantine, we consider it a personal victory when we decide to take a shower—let alone wash our hair. (Anyone else a fan of the body rinse?) And while we feel perfectly justified in our hygiene choices, we couldn't help but wonder if the lack of shampooing is doing anything to our hair.

To help clarify things, we consulted Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist (aka a scalp specialist) for Bosley Professional Strength and Harry Josh, a celebrity hairstylist (the magician behind Gisele's signature waves) to find out exactly what happens when we forgo suds for days at a time.

Is it really that bad for my hair when I don't wash it?

Depends on how long we're talking here. "I wouldn't advise going toooo long without washing it, but giving your hair an occasional break isn't a bad thing. In fact, a day or two between washes makes it easier to style," says Josh.

Where things get (ahem) hairy is when we go longer than that. "Even though most of us are staying indoors these days, our hair and scalp can still collect free radicals such as pollution and smoke. Your scalp secretes sebum, which is a mixture of oils that keep skin soft, and our bodies regulate our temperature by creating sweat. All of these factors can result in clogged hair follicles if we don’t cleanse properly. Over time, this can result in hair loss," explains Friese.

Does it depend on my hair type or texture?

Yes, hair type does come into play here. "People with finer or thinner hair should wash their hair every day to avoid any kind of oil, sweat or product build up that can clog the follicle and cause a lack of volume or prevent new hair from growing. Those who have very thick or textured hair can go a few extra days between washings, as long as they aren't excessively sweating during that time and thoroughly clean their scalp when they do shampoo," says Friese.

Are there any products or best practices I should use? 

On days between washes, Josh recommends using a dry shampoo, which "is great for soaking up any grease and freshening up your roots quickly." And when you do wash your hair, Friese says you should use the pads of your fingers to get the job done. "A lot of people think that they need to use their nails in order to clean the scalp, but this can actually cause damage to the follicles."

She also recommends using a gentle scrub occasionally to remove build up and detoxify your scalp. "Follow that up with a nourishing shampoo and finish with a cold water rinse, which will close your hair’s cuticle and and reflect light so you get a smoother, shinier finish."

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...